California Couple Fined Almost $600,000 for Killing a Heritage Oak Tree

The photo displays the extent of damage during the removal of one of the protected heritage oak trees from the conservation easement property by the Thompsons. There was further damage to the CE property when the tree was dragged 1/3 mile to be placed on the adjacent property to enhance …
Sonoma Land Trust

Peter and Toni Thompson have been fined $586,000 for illegally uprooting — and subsequently killing — a protected 180-year-old tree.

The Thompsons uprooted the tree without permits in 2014 in order to move it to a new place on property they had recently purchased. In so doing, they also gouged 3,000 cubic feet of earth on their property, which is protected under a conservation easement. The Sonoma Land Trust sued them and has now officially won.

Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Patrick Broderick said that the couple “demonstrated an arrogance and complete disregard for the mandatory terms of the easement” with actions he concluded were “knowing and intentional.” Unfortunately, no amount of money will bring back the centuries-old tree.

In response, the Thompsons immediately put the properties involved on the market for $8.45 million. They have also acquired new representation and are filing for another chance at trial. They claim their original attorney was not capable of providing proper representation because of a family matter that arose close to their time in court.

“There are so many personal tragic issues throughout this case that were very painful to deal with and actually really affected the ability to tell our side of the story,” Peter Thompson said. “In our opinion, there’s a lot of evidence that our side of the story really didn’t get a chance to explain.”

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